April 06, 2007

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Headlines (5:20)
European Union officials are looking into allegations that Ethiopian and Somali government forces committed war crimes during a recent 4-day siege on Mogadishu. The Associated Press and Reuters are reporting that an unnamed EU security expert sent an email on Monday to the EU ambassador in Kenya stating that Ethiopian and Somali government troops indiscriminately bombarded and shelled civilian areas during 4 days of heavy fighting in Mogadishu. The letter reportedly goes on to implicate African Union forces for their failure to take action against the violence. The fighting between the 29th of March and the 1st of April was the worst bloodshed Somalia has seen in 15 years. The UN estimates that nearly 125,000 Mogadishu residents have fled their homes since early February.

Colombia’s scandal of right-wing paramilitary groups’ influence in government has continued to expand this week with the issuance of arrest warrants for six mayors. Mike Ceaser reports from Bogota.

The mayors, all from the eastern province of Casanare, allegedly signed an agreement with a paramilitary leader to give the outlawed organizations control over municipal finances. The mayors have said that they signed the agreement under threats. The paramilitaries, considered terrorists by the United States government, were created during the 1980s by wealthy ranchers and narcotraffickers to protect themselves from attacks by leftist guerrillas…but the groups have themselves turned to narcotrafficking and have committed many of the worst massacres in Colombia’s four-decade civil war. Governors, congress members and the ex-head of the nation’s intelligence service have been implicated in the scandal, which has shown the extent to which the illegal groups have infiltrated government here. Most of those accused are backers of conservative President Alvaro Uribe, a close ally of the Bush administration. The unfolding paramilitary affair has also reached beyond Colombia’s borders. Recently, Chiquita Banana company admitted in a U.S. court case to having paid protection money to both guerrillas and paramilitaries in Colombia. And, this week, Interpol issued an arrest warrant for three Israeli citizens who are accused of helping train paramilitaries in 1990, under contract with drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. For FSRN, I’m Mike Ceaser in Bogota.

The death of a teacher shot during a protest in Argentina’s southern province of Neuquen has sparked nationwide protests. Police shot the victim in the head at close range with a tear gas canister on Wednesday. FSRN’s Marie Trigona reports.

Public school teacher Carlos Fuentealba died last night in the hospital after doctors diagnosed him as brain dead and disconnected his artificial respirator. Before his death, teachers surrounded the provincial government building yesterday demanding that Governor Jorge Sobich be held responsible for ordering a police offensive against public educators protesting for better salaries. Provincial police shot tear gas and water cannons to disperse teachers outside the government building yesterday. Last night in Buenos Aires, members of the militant group Quebracho set fire to the offices of the Neuquen Governor’s political party. Police arrested 10 protesters in the incident. After the news of the teacher’s death, the provincial teachers blocked off a local highway leading smaller cities to Neuquen’s capital city. Protesters are calling for the provincial Governor Jorge Sobich to resign along with members of the Popular Movement of Neuquén (MPN), Neuquen’s ruling right-wing party. Argentina’s main teachers union and other major state-workers umbrella unions have called for a 24-hour nation-wide strike and march for Monday. For Free Speech Radio News, I’m Marie Trigona in Buenos Aires.

Relief efforts in the Tsunami-struck Soloman Islands kicked into full gear today with the reopening of the airport in the hardest hit city, Gizo. An 8.0 magnitude earthquake sent a tsunami crashing into the western part of the Soloman Islands chain on Monday, but aid has been slow to reach the affected area. More than 900 homes in 13 villages were destroyed. Displaced persons have been crowded into makeshift camps on high ground for the past 5 days where sanitary conditions have worsened and drinking water has been scarce.

The high court of the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh today ruled to strip Muslims of their minority status. The Indian Constitution guarantees special protection and privileges to numerically small religious and cultural communities to preserve their identity and heritage. But the High court determined that Muslims are no longer a small enough to qualify for minority status. PC Dubey reports.

Muslims constitute 18.5 percent of the 180 million population of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. Hindu nationalists welcomed today’s ruling, while the country’s centrist and leftist political parties criticized it. Political analysts say the latter are upset because the judgment could deprive them of a political instrument to offer ‘economic-political’ baits to Muslims to grab their sizable votes…but the pro-Hindu parties are elated that the ruling could serve as a galvanizing point for Hindus who have long been resentful of legal privileges granted to the Muslims through their minority status. Pro-Hindu groups argue that only numerically tiny Jains, Parsis and, to some extent, Christians should have minority status. Political observers say today’s ruling is likely to fuel bitter polarization in the country caused by political divisions along religious lines. For Free Speech Radio News, I am PC Dubey.

US Policymakers Respond to Climate Change Report (2:53)
The world will soon see more heat waves, floods, droughts and extinctions – that’s according to a report from almost 1,000 scientists, representing 74 countries. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a UN body, also confirms that people worldwide are already feeling the devastating impact of global warming. Ingrid Drake reports from Washington DC on the response from US policy makers.

50,000 Prisoners Released in Rwanda (2:50)
Rwanda is releasing 50,000 prisoners as part of commemorations to mark the thirteenth anniversary of the genocide. The prisoner releases are part of a month-long string of activities that will climax with a national memorial this Saturday. In an attempt to decongest jails, Rwanda has been trying most people accused of involvement in the genocide in local institutions known as Gacaca courts – a system of community justice based on the traditional practice of solving conflicts under the Gacaca tree. But jails remain crowded with suspects awaiting trial. A 2003 presidential decree pardoned thousands of sick, elderly or under-age prisoners suspected of participating in the genocide and still awaiting Gacaca Court. That pardon has now been extended to include everyone who has been held for more than 10 years without trial. FSRN’s Joshua Kyalimpa files this report from the Rwandan Capital Kigali.

Ninth Chlorine Bomb Hits Anbar Province
In Iraq, at least 27 people were killed and dozens more injured near a checkpoint in Ramadi, when a suicide bomber detonated a truck packed with toxic chlorine gas and TNT. Today’s bombing is the ninth suicide chlorine bomb used in recent attacks in the Anbar province.

Iraqis Prepare for Massive Anti-Occupation Demonstrations (3:06)
Monday marks the fourth anniversary of the US military entering Baghdad. Cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr has called on his followers to demonstrate against the occupation, something they did in the hundreds of thousands last year. In past weeks, the US military has stepped up arrests of Sadrist organizers and a spokesman, as well as raids on suspected militia bases. Hiba Dawood files this report.

Public Transportation Protests in Chile (3:35)
Chile’s government approved an ambitious plan to reform Santiago’s public transit system, called Transantiago, last month. The new system was designed to replace a public transit system operated by a quilt of privately operated transit companies who owned fleets ranging in size from one to hundreds of buses. These vehicles make up some of the 8,000 or so buses that clog and race through Santiago streets. The former system remains in place in the rest of the country. But the new system has not responded the basic needs of transporting people to and from work. Demonstrations have taken place in Santiago’s poor districts, and students have taken to the streets for the past two weeks, demanding improvements. FSRNs Jorge Garreton has more.

Preview: East Timor Elections (3:23)
East Timor goes to the polls this Monday in the country’s first presidential election since gaining independence from Indonesia in 2002 – following 3 years of armed resistance. It remains one of the world’s poorest countries, with a per capita income of less than $400 per year. Former soldiers led a rebellion against the government there last year, which was quelled only after assistance from multinational troops. From the capital of Dili, Radio 68H’s Sutami and Betsy Siregar reports on the tense election campaign.

Weekly Political Roundup (2:20)
In this week’s Political Roundup, Washington Editor Leigh Ann Caldwell tracks presidential candidates and their latest fund raising efforts.

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